Valtteri Bottas made it back-to-back pole positions to end the 2017 season after beating teammate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The first attempts in the final part of qualifying proved crucial as Bottas posted a 1m36.231s to beat Hamilton by 0.172s, thanks largely to a stunning final sector. On the second runs, Bottas was comfortably down and aborted his lap, but Hamilton couldn’t convert the fastest first sector into an overall improvement and had to settle for second place.
Sebastian Vettel will start third after being unable to match the Mercedes pace, ending up over half a second adrift of Bottas. It looked set to be an all-Ferrari second row until an impressive final attempt from Daniel Ricciardo, with the Australian also impressing in the final sector to pip Kimi Raikkonen to fourth by 0.026s.
A more impressive gap for Ricciardo was the advantage over teammate Max Verstappen, with two Red Bulls separated by nearly 0.4s at the end of the session despite Verstappen being ahead after the opening runs. The top three teams remained in a league of their own, however, with Verstappen a second off pole position but also a second clear of seventh-placed Nico Hulkenberg.
Hulkenberg’s lap was particularly crucial as both Toro Rossos dropped out in Q1, and if the German can hold station, he would score the six points Renault needs to have a chance of taking sixth in the constructors’ championship. Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon and Felipe Massa rounded out the top 10, with just 0.023s separating the Force India drivers.
It took a good final lap from Massa to make it through to the top-10 shootout, marking his final qualifying appearance in F1 by beating former teammate Fernando Alonso to 10th place. Massa ended up 0.071s ahead of Alonso with his final attempt, with the the second Spaniard of Carlos Sainz eliminated in 12th place. Although he was less than 0.2s off a spot in Q3, Sainz will be more concerned with the half-second gap to teammate Hulkenberg.
Sainz split the two McLarens with a poor final sector costing Stoffel Vandoorne who had been marginally ahead of Alonso earlier in the lap, while Kevin Magnussen and Lance Stroll were the other two drivers to drop out in Q2.
Stroll was the winner of a tight battle at the end of Q1 when his final attempt saw him edge the Haas of Romain Grosjean by just 0.013s. It was a good effort from the Canadian who is running an older power unit that is down on power, but meant he was never in contention beyond the first part of qualifying.
Grosjean had a 0.2s advantage over his countryman Pierre Gasly in Q1, while the two Sauber drivers will line up in 18th and 19th, respectively, having been separated by a mere 0.014s. Brendon Hartley was always likely to start from the back of the grid as a result of a 10-place grid penalty for a new MGU-H this weekend, and the Toro Rosso driver was half a second adrift of Ericsson after focusing on race pace.